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Lisbon Portugal

Macaronesia & Bissagos Islands

Lisbon - Dakar (Southbound) - Example 21 Day Cruise aboard MS Spitsbergen
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Join MS Spitsbergen on this 21-day Macaronesia & Bissagos Islands expedition cruise from Lisbon's picturesque beaches to Madeira and admire its verdant landscapes. You then head to the beautiful Canary Islands, with stops in La Palma, La Gomera, and El Hierro. You can see different bird species, rare saltwater hippos, manatees, and more in the Bissagos UNESCO Biosphere Reserve. Then discover Cape Verde's culture, geology, and volcanic landscapes when we visit Boa Vista, Santiago, Fogo, and Santo Antão. Your expedition cruise ends in Dakar, the buzzing capital of Senegal.
Porto SantoLa Palma IslandEl HierroMadeira PortugalFogoSanto AntaoDolphinLisbon Portugal
  • Discover La Palma, also known as La Isla Bonita.
  • Explore Santo Antão largely untouched wilderness sanctuary.
  • See landscapes of lava on Fogo, an island dominated by an active volcano.
  • View wildlife in the Bissagos UNESCO Biosphere Reserve.
Places Visited
Activity Level: Relaxed
Involves minimal physical effort and is typically associated with leisurely activities. Activities are low-intensity or last less than a few hours each day.

Full Itinerary

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Day 1: Lisbon | Embark

Your expedition cruise begins in Lisbon. The Portuguese capital is rich in history and culture. If you have time, take a stroll through the classical districts of Baixa and Bairro Alto, Chiado, and Alfama—the old Islamic quarter—where there are the remains of a Roman theater and Moorish fortress.

You can also visit the beautiful UNESCO World Heritage Sites of Torre de Belém and Mosteiro dos Jerónimos, a little further from the city center, where you’ll also find delicious pastéis de Belém. Then it’s time to board MS Spitsbergen and begin your adventure at sea.

To give yourself time to explore the city, the recommend arriving early and extending your stay an extra night to do some sightseeing. Join the optional Lisbon Pre-Program for a sightseeing tour of the city and surrounding areas.

Day 2: Timanfaya National Park

Enjoy a leisurely day at sea as you sail towards Porto Santo, north of the Madeira archipelago.

Soak in a hot tub, work up a sweat in the gym, enjoy a sauna, or take in ocean views from the Explorer Lounge &Bar. If you want to improve your camera skills, ask for some pointers on landscape composition from the expedition photographer.

Don't miss the Expedition Team’s fascinating lectures on Madeira's history and wildlife. Learn about important conservation projects, like how locals are working to remove invasive plant species from Madeira Natural Park.

Day 3: Sands of Porto Santo

As you approach Porto Santo, keep your binoculars handy for dolphins and seabirds, including Cory’s shearwaters, northern gannets, and Bulwer’s petrels.

In Vila Baleira, walk to the palm-lined square, Largo do Pelourinho, and enjoy a glass of vinho do Porto Santo in one of the bars before visiting the Christopher Columbus House Museum.

Join the on a panoramic bus tour to Ponta da Calheta, Pico do Castelo, and Fonte de Areia, whose waters are said to guarantee eternal youth. If you prefer a nature walk, join a hike to spectacular Pico Branco, where much of the endemic flora on the island can be found.

Day 4: Verdant Madeira

Enveloped by swathes of humid laurel forest, Madeira rises majestically out of the Atlantic in various shades of green. Funchal is its quaint and cosmopolitan capital, filled with old world charm.

Visit the historic old town and see the beautiful cathedral. Dating to 1485, its wooden ceiling and is a classic example of Manueline architecture. Sample Madeira's fortified wines and try the sweet ananas-banana fruit, which looks like a giant pickle.

For glorious views, take the cable car to the picturesque village of Monte. If you dare, slide the mile back down to Funchal in a carro de cesto, a wicker sled on wooden skis. It’s a fun and memorable experience!

Day 5: Canary Islands Bound

With volcanic landscapes and a rich history, you may want to learn more about the Canary Islands before you arrive. The Expedition Team is on hand to teach you all about these remarkable islands.

Enjoy life onboard, edit your photos, and relax on deck while looking for whales, dolphins, and seabirds. Dine on delicious meals prepared in the onboard restaurant and watch the sunset from the Explorer Lounge &Bar.

The recommend heading over to the Science Center and taking part in Citizen Science projects that support marine conservation. Believing everyone can make a difference in protecting the world’s most precious habitats.

Day 6: La Palma, the Pretty Isle

Known as La Isla Bonita or ‘The Pretty Island’, La Palma is home to unspoiled pine and laurel forests, banana trees, and palm groves. Santa Cruz, its capital, is considered one of the most attractive towns in the archipelago.

Lined with magnificent Renaissance-era buildings with lavishly adorned plants and flowers, Santa Cruz displays a fantastic example of Canarian architecture. Don’t miss the eccentric La Palma Island Museum, set inside an old convent.

In the districts of La Canela and San Telmo, you’ll see signs of faded colonial grandeur. Walking in La Palma is superb, with some walks starting right in Santa Cruz. Outside the city, you can join a walk to experience the spectacular Caldera de Taburiente National Park.

Day 7: Unspoiled La Gomera

La Gomera is the second-smallest island in the Canaries, and the nature is largely untamed. You’ll find island life here at its most authentic.

In San Sebastian’s historic center, you can visit the Iglesia de la Virgen de la Asunción, a Baroque church, where Christopher Columbus and his crew are said to have prayed before setting sail. You can also visit the archeological museum to learn about the mysterious Gaunche people who first settled these islands.

Consider hiking through the beautiful laurel forests and idyllic palm-covered valleys of the mountainous Garajonay National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Day 8: Remote El Hierro

With lava-sculpted rocks and fields filled with flowers, the remote El Hierro is a truly remarkable island. In fact, this young oceanic shield volcano is classified as a UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve.

The port for the day is Puerto La Estaca, just over four miles away from Valverde, the only landlocked capital in the Canary Islands. Stroll the streets of this easy-going capital and soak up its traditional atmosphere.

Choose a panoramic drive tour or explore the island’s photogenic forests, meadows, and volcanic formations on a hike. These varied landscapes are all connected with crisscrossing trails.

Day 9-11: Bound for Cape Verde

Enjoy a relaxing day at sea as you head towards the Cape Verde archipelago. The islands are known for their magnificent volcanic landscapes, dramatic valleys, and towering volcanoes, with the highest point at Pico de Fogo (literally meaning ‘peak of fire’), rising 9,250 ft above sea level.

As you cruise, you’ll learn more about the geology and history of Cape Verde through lectures from the Expedition Team. There can be opportunities to participate in scientific projects in the Citizen Science program. You can also take it easy and relax on deck in the tropical sun.

Day 12: Rugged Santo Antão

Santo Antão’s landscapes of peaks, gorges, and canyons have benefited from their unsuitability for agriculture. Largely untouched, this wilderness sanctuary is a paradise for hikers and nature lovers.

You’ll land in Porto Novo, the island’s main port, which has spectacular views across to São Vicente. Enjoy a ride around the island, which takes you on a nature tour through the island’s ribeiras. These are deep, narrow canyons with near vertical walls.

Or you could take a nature walk and admire the beauty of these local spots up close. Walk along trails through mango and almond groves, punctuated by the delicious aroma of roasting coffee wafting through the villages.

Day 13: Volcanic Fogo

Today's expedition day takes you to Fogo, an island dominated by a cone-shaped active volcano. Centuries of eruptions, the last in 2014, have left an incredible landscape for you to explore.

Enjoy a tour of São Filipe’s cobbled streets and charming historic center. Don’t miss the stunning lava fields of Chã das Caldeiras.

Fogo doesn’t have any natural harbors, so you’ll only land if conditions allow the to launch the small boats (RIBs). Otherwise, you’ll take in the spectacular volcanic scenery as you cruise around the island.

Day 14: Diverse Santiago

Santiago embodies the spirit of the Cape Verde archipelago. Here you can enjoy a little of everything, from historical sites and bustling markets to lush valleys and jagged mountains.

The capital of Praia is a dynamic city that attracts immigrants from the rest of Cape Verde and the African continent.

Explore Praia’s vibrant culture on a city tour. Visit the museums and buildings around the Plateau, which displays artifacts recovered from the islands’ shipwrecks. Stop by viewpoints, the local market, and more

Day 15: Boa Vista

You've now reached Cape Verde’s easternmost island, Boa Vista.

You’ll be awed by the rugged beauty of the Sahara-like desert formations and landscapes of this volcanic island. The sand dunes and oases found here are in stark contrast to the other islands you visit on this cruise.

Stroll the streets of the island’s capital, Sal Rei, where you can explore its history and traditions, and visit Santa Isabel Church. The Ponta do Sol nature reserve is within hiking distance of the town and a great way to enjoy the scenery.

Day 16: At Sea

You leave Cape Verde and set course for Guinea-Bissau. Your Expedition Team can brief you on what lies ahead as you sail.

Learn about the extraordinary biodiversity found on the Bissagos Islands, the traditional culture of the Bijagós people, and the historical impact of Portuguese exploration and the slave trade.

You can participate in the Citizen Science projects and contribute data to ongoing research projects. You could also brush up on your photography skills with the onboard photographer to prepare for the sights to come.

Day 17-20: Bissagos Expedition

Over the next four days, you’ll explore a maze of islands and channels, seeking out mangroves, tropical forests, savannah woodlands, and coastal lagoons. The small boats (RIBs) can take you down the smaller channels and on-shore landings with the Expedition Team. You may also launch the kayaks.

You’ll meet and learn more about the local Bijagós people, a tribal society organized in clans. Practicing a life that is in balance with nature, they hold the world around them as sacred and have retained their ancestral traditions.

Local conditions can0 determine when and where you can land and explore, but whatever you do you can be sure you’ll experience the rich diversity of the archipelago up close.

Day 21: Delightful Dakar | Disembark

  • 1 Breakfast, 1 Lunch
Your expedition cruise ends in Senegal’s kaleidoscopic capital, Dakar. After you disembark MS Spitsbergen, you’ll take you on an included city tour to explore this fascinating city.

Listen out for the many languages of West Africa, such as Wolof, Pular, and Serer. Undoubtedly, seeing the diversity of local cultures here is a wonderful way to round off your trip.

With the tour complete, you’ll be taken to a hotel for lunch and spend the rest of the day relaxing in comfort at the hotel, before transferring to the airport for your return journey home.


MS Spitsbergen

Dates & Prices

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Per person starting at
Rates are dynamic and fluctuate based on capacity. Contact us for a specific quote.
Rates are subject to change without notice. Book early to get the best rate.
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Polar Inside - B
Outside cabin, 193 sq ft. With limited/ no view, queen bed, kettle, TV, bathroom with shower. Accessible to guests with limited mobility
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Polar Inside - I
Most cabins have separate beds, where one can be turned into a sofa, some have a double bed or upper and lower berths, shower/wc
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Polar Inside - K
Some cabins have a double bed, some have separate beds, where one can be turned into a sofa, shower/wc
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Polar Outside - AJ
Upper and lower berths, shower/wc, limited/no view
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Polar Outside - J
Some cabins have a double bed, some have separate beds, where one can be turned into a sofa, or upper or lower berths, shower/wc, limited/no view
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Polar Outside - A
Upper and lower berths, shower/wc
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Polar Outside - N
Some cabins have a double bed, some have separate beds, where one can be turned into a sofa, or upper or lower berths, shower/wc
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Polar Outside - O
Some cabins have a double bed, some have separate beds, where one can be turned into a sofa, or upper or lower berths, shower/wc
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Arctic Superior - P
Some cabins have a double bed, some have separate beds, where one can be turned into a sofa, kettle, coffee/tea, shower/wc
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Arctic Superior - U
Some cabins have a double bed, some have 3 or 4 beds, some have a seating area, kettle, coffee/tea, TV, mini bar, shower/wc, limited/no view
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Arctic Superior - QJ
Some cabins have a double bed, some have separate beds, where one can be turned into a sofa, kettle, coffee/tea, shower/wc
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Expedition Suite - Q
One room with a double bed, some with seating area, some with 3-4 beds that can be upper beds, TV, mini bar, kettle, coffee/tea, shower/wc, view
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Expedition Suite - MG
One or two rooms with seating area, double bed, TV, stereo, mini bar, kettle, tea/coffee, shower/wc, some with bathtub, most with private balcony or bay window
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Expedition Suite - MX
Two rooms with a double bed, seating area, dining table, TV, mini bar, kettle, coffee/tea, stereo, shower, w/c, private balcony
  • 20 Breakfasts, 20 Lunches, 20 Dinners
  • 20 Nights Accommodations
  • Accommodations as listed
  • Ground transportation as listed
  • Activities as listed
  • Meals as listed
  • Access to a 24-7 Emergency line while traveling
  • Gratuities
  • Complimentary Reusable Water Bottle 
  • Complimentary Wi-Fi on board. Be aware that we sail in remote areas with very limited connection. Streaming is not supported.
  • Loan of Boots, Trekking Poles, & All Equipment for Activities
  • Use of the Ship’s Science Center which has an extensive library and advanced biological and geological microscopes
  • In-depth lectures and discussions hosted by experts on the Expedition Team
  • Citizen Science Program where you can assist with ongoing scientific research
  • Professional onboard photographer gives tips and tricks for the best landscape and wildlife photos
  • Escorted landings with small expedition boats
  • Dakar City Tour, day room at a hotel in Dakar, including lunch
  • Travel Insurance
  • Personal Expenses
  • Flight costs (please request a quote)
  • Additional excursions during free time
  • Fuel and transportation surcharges (when applicable)
  • Luggage Handling 
  • Mandatory medical evacuation insurance
  • Optional shore excursions with local partners
  • Optional small-group activities with the Expedition Team


When to Go

Good to ideal period to travel, and many people choose to visit at this time.


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